There have been calls for the DUP’s Iris Robinson to resign as chair of the Assembly’s Health Committee following her extraordinary outburst this week against homosexuality, which she described as a mental illness and “an abomination”.
The DUP MP and MLA, wife of First Minister Peter Robinson, said she had no regrets about her attack, despite being under investigation by police under anti-hate legislation.
The born again First Lady said she had a right to express her view and claimed there was a “witch hunt” against Christians. “Just as a murderer can be redeemed by the blood of Christ so can a homosexual,” she told BBC radio.
Sinn Fein deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness said that politicians have a responsibility to promote equality for all citizens in the north.
“Everyone has a responsibility to protect and promote the rights of all our citizens, regardless of sexual orientation. Sinn Fein will not be deflected in ensuring this legal responsibility is upheld.
“Along with other members of Sinn Fein I have been supportive of a number of events that acknowledge the rights of all member of our society and their right to equality.
“While Iris Robinson is entitled to reflect her beliefs she also has a responsibility to act with due consideration.
“Comments that cause harm and distress to any section of our community are inappropriate and she should reflect fully on the impact that her comments will have.”
Andrew Muir, vice-chairman of Gay and Lesbian Across Down, said he believed the remarks aroused fear and were incitement to hatred. He said others had also made complaints.
“Police will examine her remarks under the Public Order Act which was revised recently to include hate-crime legislation which carries tougher penalties. No-one should be allowed to get away with this,” he said.
Her husband, First Minister Peter Robinson, made no comment on the controversy while announcing his new cabinet ministers in the Northern Executive.
Arlene Foster made a sideways move from environment to the Department of Enterprise, Trade and Investment, while DUP deputy leader Nigel Dodds became finance minister.
East Derry MP Gregory Campbell is now minister for culture, arts and leisure. Edwin Poots was dropped from the culture minister post due to resentment at his handling of the position by nationalists and unionists alike.
The new environment minister is East Antrim MP Sammy Wilson, who is mainly known to nationalists for his sectarian outbursts and occasional public nudity.
On his first full day in office, he provoked criticism when he questioned the link between carbon dioxide emissions and climate change and complained about “Green fanatics”.